Your Show of Shows, was a Saturday night fixture for four years, adopting a similar format of comedy monologues, skits, and parodies of movies and plays. But this program was less a showcase for guest stars than for Caesar and Coca, ably supported by Carl Reiner (who replaced Tom Avera after the first season) and Howard Morris (who joined a season later). Writers Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, and Mel Brooks, choreographer James Starbuck, set designer Frederick Fox, and conductor Charles Sanford were all Admiral alumni; the other writers completed a Who's Who of post-World War II American comedy--Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H TV series), Bill Persky and Sam Denoff (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Neil Simon, and also Joe Stein (Fiddler on the Roof) and Mike Stewart (Hello, Dolly and Bye, Bye Birdie). The writing sessions were reputedly raucous and sometimes even violent, splitting up into groups of two or three who competed with one another, all fighting for attention and success--with the possible exception of Simon, whispering his suggestions to Reiner, who would repeat them to the group. It has long been reported that Woody Allen worked on the show, though this has recently been suggested to be untrue.
The show included a large cast of regular singers and dancers, and was originally the New York half of a larger overall show, NBC's Saturday Night Revue. (Jack Carter hosted a Chicago portion an hour earlier.) At the end of the first season, Carter and the umbrella title were dropped, and Caesar and company went on to perform some 160 telecasts--all live, original comedy. Both raucous and urbane, combined revue and sketch comedy with a rather sophisticated sense of satire and parody, especially for early TV: how many other programs of this era would have conceived a spoof of Italian Neorealist cinema?
Caesar, notorious for his deviations from the script, was skilled at mime, dialects, monologues, foreign language double-talk, and general comic acting. Whether alone, paired with Coca, or part of the four-man repertory group, he excelled. Not a rapid-fire jokester like Berle or Fred Allen, Caesar was often compared in the press to the likes of Chaplin, Fields, or Raimu. The 90-minute show usually featured a guest host (who played a minor role), at least two production numbers, sketches between Caesar and Coca, the showcase parody of a popular film (e.g., "Aggravation Boulevard," "From Here to Obscurity"), further sketches (as many as ten per show), Caesar in monologue or pantomime (e.g., an expectant father in the waiting room, the autobiography of a gum-ball machine), and the entire company in a production number. The most famous characters included Charlie and Doris Hickenlooper, a mis-matched married couple; The Professor, a Germanic expert scientist in everything and nothing; storyteller Somerset Winterset; jazz musicians Cool C's and Progress Hornsby; and the mechanical figures of the great clock of Baverhoff, Bavaria, striking one another in addition to the hour.